I couldn't help but reflect further on the news about Ken Lewis and his salary-the fact that he wont' get one.In the words of one analyst interviewed by Bloomberg: "I thought, 'Wow, this seems to be an extreme reaction,'" said Frederic Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Ore. "The man has been under extreme duress the entire year and deserves at least his base salary. I was extremely surprised."
Another called such punitive measures "mean-spirited" and "an attitude that will send shivers through every person who does business with the government or is regulated by the government"-Greg Donaldson, chairman of Donaldson Capital Management, Evansville, Ind.
Whether the Lewis situation will be the exception to the rule or just the beginning of a wave of similar decrees remains to be seen. Yes, things went wrong, the economy is in trouble, but to me, there's something about this degree of government interference in the private sector that makes me feel just a bit uncomfortable. Maybe Lewis is the scapegoat or sacrificial lamb for the industry (whichever term you prefer) and no one else will share his fate.
On the other hand, there were bad risks taken in the industry. Should people on the inside be making out like bandits while the rest of the country suffers? Shouldn't there be a more measured response in terms of salary? Perhaps a middle ground could have been met between the government and the financial services industry in which firms' executives were "encouraged" to reevaluate their pay scales, at least for this year. Or perhaps some prominent executive would step forward, saying he'll only take a salary of $1 for the year (well, maybe not $1, but you get my point)? Would have set a nice example.